I spent a couple days earlier this week towing my pulk around in the snow, trying to get accustomed to the idea of doing that 40+ miles per day, for 4-5 days in a row. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it. The Iditasport definitely scares me a little, which I suppose is the point.
Day 1 (Monday Nov 28) was a trip up to Mowich Lake via the closed-to-cars, ungroomed, and unplowed Mowich Lake Rd. NOAA had predicted 1-3 inches of fresh snow at 2500 ft, but that didn’t quite pan out. Luckily(?) there was a thin layer of slush at the road closure gate at 3800 ft, providing just enough coverage to tow the sled, so off I went.
Somewhere between 4000 and 45000 ft the slush turned to snow, and by 5000 ft there was 1-1.5 ft of snow on the road, with a couple inches of wet powder over a hard rain crust. Snowshoes would’ve been helpful, but I left mine in the car when I saw the dismal snow coverage at the gate. (Doh!)
I won’t lie, it wasn’t a great day in the mountains. It was snaining heavily, thick fog obscured any views, and forest service roads aren’t the most mentally stimulating. As I trudged up towards Mowich Lake I seriously questioned my decision to sign up for yet another winter race. If I’m going to drive for hours and take time away from work/family, I want to enjoy it. Or at least feel inspired by the scenery!
Eventually I reached Mowich Lake, which gave me the boost I was looking for. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could easily tow the sled along the Wonderland trail. So I wandered around Mowich Lake on the trail, and then started to head towards Ipsut Pass before getting turned around by avalanche terrain. I also checked out the Mowich Lake campground (scenic, but the campsites are not private). At this point I had explored all of the safe and accessible terrain, so I headed back to the car.
On my way down I checked out part of the Grindstone Trail. This is a trail that intersects the road at several points, providing shortcuts to the long sweeping switchbacks of Mowich Lake Rd. I had avoided it on the way up because I wanted the extra miles, but decided to take a peek on the way down. As of Monday, snow coverage on the Grindstone trail was sufficient for snowshoes but they definitely weren’t necessary. That said, if you’re going to head up to Mowich Lake in the winter, take the Grindstone trail when you can! It’s beautiful through the woods! I even came across large kitty tracks, which is always cool. Tracks in the snow are one of my favorite parts of winter training – confirmation that the animals are out there, whether I am lucky enough to see them or not.